Friday, February 16, 2007

Hot and Cold in Hackney

One minute I'm talking to Tom Humphreys in the basement of flaca, the next I'm standing, abruptly, in complete pitch blackness. The lights have all gone out. I reach out and grab Tom's arm. 'What's going on?' I ask the black nothingness in front of me.
'It's -'
The lights come back on.
'- art.' says Tom, calmly.
The lights go off and on throughout the night. They are on a timer. Tom says they're on for the length of time the artist, Mandla Reuter, has calculated it takes to look at the show. I wonder how he calculated that? It could be useful to know for future use - how long it takes to look at any show? I wonder too - does this include thinking time? Does it imply a certain way of looking? In fact, this subtle, but noticeable piece, makes me ask a lot of little questions. I look at Tom. 'Nothing as gauche as a press release to accompany this show, I guess?' He shakes his head, 'Ooh, no,' he says. 'There is some text though, upstairs, near the door. The artist is up there. You'll see him: tall, brown hair, pacing around, chain smoking.'
'OK,' I say. 'And you. You also have some work at Keith Talent tonight?'
'Yes.' He thinks for moment. 'A very cool show,' he says. 'And I don't mean cool as in...I mean icy cool. Cold.'
Yeah. Lisa Penny was cold. Then she was hot. Then she was cold again. Earlier I saw her outside 1000000mph on Old Bethnal Green Road. Too much drink the night before, now suffering, hot and then cold. Couldn't cope with it inside - too, too hot - so is standing outside on the pavement. We have a chat. Don't put this on your blog, she says, but...(people always say this now. 'Here's something, but you can't put it on your blog.' And there will be another two people tonight who say the same thing to me. It's a wonder I actually have anything left to write at all...) Anyway, back to 1000000mph. Or rather, hello for the first time! Regular readers will know the Herculean task it has been to get on the mailing list and now finally, a favourable constellation has brought my schedule and their private view into alignment. I'm also glad to be here as it's the launch of Vague issue 2 and even more pleased because I know that the show has some Sarah Baker work in it - and I'm a big fan.
I go in, leaving Lisa, going hot and cold, outside.
It's packed, naturally. It's loud and busy and there is some art on the walls but hardly visible behind everyone. There are two pallets worth of Vague magazine. Matt, who edits the paper, is there and so too Dallas, who runs this space. He's in his element. I lift my camera to take a shot. He sticks out his tongue, screws up his face. Also there is, hey wow, is that....? Well, yes it is, it's Sarah Baker herself (above). I say hello and introduce myself and she looks at me thinking who is this guy and I ask to take her photo and say I write an online diary of shows and then she knows who I am because it turns out she read what I wrote about her before and suddenly, in her eyes, I go from being weird pervert guy who might kill her slowly in a cellar at some point to ok guy who likes her work and can string a sentence together and, then I say, as further reassurance: 'I'm a friend of Dallas.' 'Oh,' she says, 'I didn't know you were his friend.'
'Isn't everyone a friend of Dallas?' I say.
'Well, yeah, sure,' she laughs. 'Or I guess you are either for him or against him.' I nod in agreement. He seems pretty popular tonight, though, with this crowd. There's always a crowd not far from Dallas. I wonder if Dallas has ever experienced standing in an empty room?
Sarah has some work in this new issue of Vague and also some flyposted up in the gallery. It's great stuff. Undiluted, unapologetic and unafraid to be what it is. In these pieces she is wearing her sunglasses with her familiar signature across the lenses and she's all all blinged up and behaving like a starlet. Her work, of course, suits a magazine format. Part art star, part celebrity in her own right, she happily plays with branding and surface and celebrity and glamour and fashion and icons and image and logos and identity. Phew. But she offers no easy critique of all this stuff; merely posits her own contruct in its place. Perhaps she's trying to see how far this can go. Perhaps it goes all the way. I guess, yet, we none of us know what her work could be. Much of the time what she does doesn't even look like art. How good is that?
In the basement of flaca though I am clearly looking at some art. There are electrical bulbs across the floor, a door with one end jammed up against the wall, the other end on the floor, against a book called What A Life by Georg Herold. This work is by, I think, Haegue Yang. I go upstairs and see the tall, brown haired, pacing, smoking Mandla Reuter. I find the text Tom referrred to. It is four titles on a piece of paper. This at least means that I now know the lights going on and off is called Time Has Ceased Space Has Vanished (and not: Work No.227: The lights going on and off). But there's no other information on the paper. 'It does have the address of the gallery printed on it,' says Tom helpfully '... but I guess you already know that.' I do know that. Yes. The lights continue to go on and off and upstairs I notice that there is a hatch opened up in the ceiling and, just visible through it, a large speaker from which some confused sounds are emanating and dropping down onto the gallery like drops of water from a leaking pipe. There's also a large photograph fixed to the wall. An indistinct, shadowy form. It looks like art and it sounds like art. But it all seems a little bleak.
As I leave, heading north towards Keith Talent, Woodeson phones and says he's heading south and do we want to meet? We schedule a meeting at Talent.
On arriving I see him and also one of the Keith Talent boys - is it Simon or Andrew, I can neve-
'Fuck's sake, that pisses me right off. This fucking 'is it Andrew, is it Simon' shit. Fucking hell, man. You're fucking taking the piss, you fucker. You and your fucking blog, it fucking pisses me off. If you fucking do that again I'll fucking bottle you, you fucking gobshite.'
I'm guessing here that Simon from Keith Talent isn't very amused.
Or is it Andrew who-
'FUCK. YOU. Stop doing that. And you can put that on your fucking blog too.'
Anyway, we do manage to have a chat. Seems Andrew (or Simon) is often also known as Keith. At art fairs and such, it's sometimes easier for him to be Keith Talent. We chat some more - about Charlie Brooker (who we both love), and LA art fairs, selling art, Clunie Reid, spliffs and blowjobs, Miser and Now. It's a curious mix.
I go and have a look at the show. It is a little chill, as Tom suggested. There's Tom, Lillian Vaule and Tatiana Echeverri Fernandez in this show. I have no idea who has done what. Some pieces stand out: three reams of sealed photocopy paper are hanging on the wall, with a rectangle gouged out of each one; there is what looks like the back of a frame in its polysterene holder still; there is a badly drawn, glum looking cartoon Pink Panther gesturing with his hand as if to say, this is it, this is what there is. Other pieces sit awkwardly on the walls. Even for a private view there is a looming tension that these works seem to be emitting.
Just as I'm thinking it's time to go I bump into the lovely Lucy Harrison. I've been following a project she's doing down in Canvey with a series of monthly meetings/walks/conversations under the title of the Rendezvous Club. You can check it out HERE. It's a very interesting piece. She tells me about people she's met on these walks, people she's talked to in the community. It all seems a very long way away from the unhappy Pink Panther in the corner.
I think back to Sarah Baker's work. I think about the lights going on and off. I think about white pieces of paper. And I think about walking along with a bunch of people in Canvey on a brisk, light Sunday afternoon.
It has indeed been, like Lisa said, a very hot and cold evening.

hot and cold pics